Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Abolish the Electoral College?

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is happy that his home state, Maryland, is on the brink of passing a law that commits its ten electors to the winner of the national popular vote, should states with 270 electoral votes agree to do so. This is an end run around the constitutional amendment process, which is, of course, much more cumbersome and in which small states, "overrepresented" in the E.C., are likely to pose barriers.

For Dionne, it’s all about democracy. Not federalism. Not republicanism.

Next thing you know, he’ll propose abolishing judicial review and the Bill of Rights. Other countries get along just fine without them too.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Judicial review: It’s interesting to consider whether, on balance, it has good for our country. In the two great crises of our country, the Civil War nad the Depression, the Court was 0 for 2. And consider what our abortion etc. policy would be without the interference of the courts. And the Bill of Rights no longer serves its original function, which was to protect the states from an aggressive national government. So those proposals by EJ, which of course won’t be forthcoming, would be more interesting.

For the Left, such direct democracy makes sense. Given our lack of an immigration policy, and given that immigrants vote overwhelmingly Democrat, they’ve pretty much got it wrapped up already. California is theirs, Florida nearly theirs, New York is theirs, Texas soon will be theirs. "Red" America doesn’t stand a dog’s chance in hell over the long-haul.

Might I take this time to point out just how stupid Karl Rove and George Bush have been? They’ve won with the white vote, without exception, but they’ve pandered to Hispanics and refused to seal the border. You might as well hand them a revolver and offer them some "quiet time" in a nearby closet.

Maryland is currently a lock for the Democrats, so the result of this law in 2004 would have been to the GOP’s advantage. It sounds dubious from a Constitutional standpoint though.

I have to agree with dain here. It’s hard to imagine what the Republican party is thinking with regards to immigration, if in fact it is thinking at all beyond the campaign contributions from employers. And the lack of attention this gets on political blogs is beyond bizarre. I presume the thinking is that if we all pretend the problem is not there, it will not really exist.

I hope the people of my home state of Maryland will be happy to know that under the Democrats’ latest proposal for majoritarian democracy, their entire Electoral College vote would have been cast for Nixon, Reagan (twice), Bush in ’88, and a multitude of Republicans over the 20th and 19th centuries. If you just look at the numbers, you will see that Dem presidential candidates very rarely win popular majorities, whereas Republicans do so far more often.

Speaking as a committed Republican, I see this very foolish idea of the Democrat majority in Annapolis as essentially giving away the state’s vote to other states. Why should anyone vote in Maryland for President since the Md. vote that counts, our Electoral College ballots, will be determined not by Maryland voters but by voters elsewhere?

Dennis points to the important role of federalism in our constitutional arrangement, a role that has of course been overshadowed by political developments in the 20th century. One of the ways that states mean something under the constitution is that they have some independent weight in selecting the president.

John thinks that the proposal sounds "dubious from a constitutional standpoint." For the considerations I just mentioned, I don’t think so. States can choose their electors almost any way they want (consonant with their own constitutions). See Art. II, Sec 1, para. 2 of the Constitution. But John is right that the proposal works against the spirit of the constitution.

Joseph: "works against the spirit" of which constitution? The one with the 13th, 14th, 15th, and, especially, the 17th Amendment in it? It’s not just political developments that have overshadowed the role of the electoral college - which was supposed to provide a check on the public and the candidates, not merely mirror their preferences. It’s also constitutional developments that have changed the context within which the institution works.

This is probably over analysing what is after all just political theater. But I’m skeptical that a state can simply pass a law which effectivily disenfranchises its own voters, absent at least a state constitutional amendment. I can see SCOTUS striking it down on that basis.

I think we all understand that if a Democratic state such as Maryland or California passed such a law, and it had the "incorrect" result in a future election (a GOP win), the courts in these states would void the law in an instant. So its all academic.


I can’t deny that the 14th Amendment, especially, has (and was intended to have) a nationalizing effect, but it surely wasn’t meant to repeal those elements of federalism (like the E.C.) explicitly embodied in the Constitution. I understand, but am not persuaded by, the case against the E.C. I would of course find a way of living with a constitutional amendment that abolished it, but I’d go down fighting.

And the 14th Amendment surely didn’t mandate our post-New deal policy-making orientation.

Coming as I do from California, I’d love for the EC to go down. It doesn’t make sense to me that a person’s vote doesn’t count just because he or she chooses to live in a certain state.

Besides, it is much harder to rig the election in an entire country than simply concentrating on a swing state. If we were a "popular vote" country, many of those fired Attorneys wouldn’t have been an issue, right?

Piker, you realize that candidate’s would only visit several different states if we abolished the electoral college, right? You’ve got it backwards when it comes to "wasting votes". And I’m glad to see people still think Bush stole the election from Gore. Jeez louis . . .

No, why should he care...the candidates would spend ALL their time and cash in California, New York, Florida and Texas (maybe a quick trip through the Midwest just in case). Lots of people fail to realize that the EC forces our candidates to represent the whole country, not just the whole people. Of course, it was designed way back when we were still a functional republic.

Ah, but there would be no particular need to visit any STATE, just high-density population AREAS. As for the president representing the whole COUNTRY, I hope you’ve long ago given up that naive fiction.

My allusion to vote-stealing in this case was this: the claim is that many of the fired (let’s say "made to resign") attorneys were ignoring reports of DEMOCRATIC voter fraud in the ’06 elections. And it’s well-known that Kennedy did a little jiggering in the ’62 election. So maybe we’d all breathe a little easier knowing that incentive to cheat was muted.

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